By Stanley White
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Turkish lira slumped toward a record low versus the dollar after President Tayyip Erdogan stunned investors over the weekend by replacing the hawkish central bank governor with a critic of high interest rates.
The yen rose against the euro and the antipodean currencies on speculation that Japanese individual investors who have been buying the lira recently for its high rates will be forced to cut losses and close out their positions.
Worries that events in Turkey will cause disruptions in other financial markets also supported the dollar because of its status as a safe-harbour currency.
“Other emerging market countries are not in the same position as Turkey, but there still could be some contagion,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.
“There are concerns that people will start taking profits in other markets. This looks like a time to re-think your investment strategy, because the rotation into higher-yielding emerging market currencies will be put on hold.”
The Turkish lira stood at 8.10 per dollar in early Asia trade, down 11% from its close on Friday.
At one point the lira fell by as much as 14.9% to 8.4850, which is close to a record low of 8.5800.
Liquidity was thin during early trading, but analysts said they are braced for bigger moves as more investors enter markets later in the day.
The yen edged up against the euro, the Australian dollar and the New Zealand dollar, boosted by expectations that Japanese retail investors who lost money on the lira will unwind other popular cross yen trades.
The dollar was little changed at 108.89 yen but edged up against the British pound to $1.3833.
The euro fell slightly to $1.1885.
Erdogan fired the central bank governor only two days after a sharp rate hike that was meant to head off inflation of nearly 16% and support the lira.
The new central bank governor likely means a reversal of the hawkish and orthodox steps taken to battle inflation, which could lead to prolonged market volatility, analysts said.
“After regaining investor confidence with a series of aggressive rate hikes, Turkey has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” analysts at Brown, Brothers and Harriman wrote in memo.
A decline in risk appetite weighed on the Australian dollar, which fell to $0.7725. The New Zealand dollar also fell slightly to $0.7153.
Further declines in the Aussie and the kiwi are likely to be limited because both currencies will still benefit from rising commodity prices and an acceleration in global trade, Mizuho’s Yamamoto said.
(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
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